Worst Mayon eruption remembered

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With the ruins of the Cagsawa church as a backdrop, dancers from the Bicol University perform during the bicentennial anniversary of the deadliest eruption of Mayon Volcano on February 1, 1814 that killed 1,200 people.  Photo by Rene H. Dilan

With the ruins of the Cagsawa church as a backdrop, dancers from the Bicol University perform during the bicentennial anniversary of the deadliest eruption of Mayon Volcano on February 1, 1814 that killed 1,200 people.
Photo by Rene H. Dilan

DARAGA, ALBAY: The Province of Albay has commemorated the worst eruption of Mayon Volcano in 1814 with “Cagsawa Dos Siglos” to pay tribute the people’s strength and resiliency.

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The Cagsawa Festival marked the 200 years since the Cagsawa Church was buried by flowing lava from the volcano, killing 1,200 people.  Ash and lahar rained on the surrounding countryside bringing the death toll to 15,000.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the 200th anniversary of the eruption will showcase the history and culture of Albayanos.

“For two centuries the Cagsawa Ruins has stood as a symbol of the Bicol region’s impressive landscape, rich history and the people’s strength and resiliency to face and to rise from the ravages of Mother Nature,” Salceda said. “Albayanos are conscious that each day we live within the shadow of a beautiful yet dangerous volcano. Thus, this day is also a reminder of our commitment to disaster risk reduction as a way of life if we are to achieve our goals of development for all.”

“We celebrate today because we survived. And I am confident that those who passed away are happy we survived. We have passed the test of nature and of time,” Salceda said.

Mayon’s earliest recorded eruption was in 1616. It was described as several rivers of fire, thick smoke and ash, sand and glowing materials shaken by violent earthquakes.

Her worst eruption to date was on Februay 1, 1814 when she spat out blazing rocks and lava. She expelled so much of her innards that it covered the former settlements of Budiao and Cagsawa. The eruption that buried Cagsawa Church was the fifth and the strongest, based on accounts of recorded eruptions since 1616. Subsequent eruptions further covered the church until only the bell tower remained aboveground.

The Cagsawa belfry is what is left of an 18th century Franciscan Church built in 1724.

It has become one of Albay’s most famous landmarks and is one of its most popular tourist attractions.

Besides Cagsawa, a neighboring town, Budiao, was laid waste by Mayon’s fury. Only the walls of Budiao’s church remain today. The parish priest of Budiao was said to be the lone survivor of catastrophic eruption. He saved himself through a bent coconut tree. Three other towns—Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao also suffered death and destruction.

In November 30, 2006 when Super Typhoon Reming hit in Bicol specifically in Albay province, the Cagsawa Ruins was miraculously saved where the Bicolanos believed that it was protected by divine providence as thousands of souls were buried under the earth of Cagsawa church in 1814 historic Mayon volcano’s deadliest eruption.

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